What Are the Health Benefits of Yoga (Part II)

Emotional and well-being benefits of yoga
Emotional and well-being benefits of yoga
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Greetings Cool Healthy Lifers!

I love fall!  What a great time of year.  Cool, crisp weather, leaves changing their colors and putting on their spectacular autumn show,  and soup simmering on the stove – what’s not to love?

Today we’re going to continue our discussion on the wonderful benefits of yoga.  We recently discussed the physical benefits of yoga; today we’re going to focus on the emotional tranquility and overall well-being associated with consistent yoga practice.  Most people have a general understanding of how yoga benefits our physical well-being, but we tend not to think about or understand some of the less obvious benefits of yoga that we don’t immediately see or feel.

We’ve put together a list of benefits and divided them into two categories: Health Benefits and Mind/Body Benefits.

  • Health Benefits  identify some of the lesser known or understood benefits to your health that may come from yoga practice
  • Mind/Body Benefits highlight how yoga practice can improve your emotional health and overall well-being

Health Benefits of Yoga

Increases Blood Flow

The stretches and exercises of a good yoga routine help get our blood flowing. Yoga pushes more oxygen and nourishment to cells across the body, which improves their overall performance. Yoga can increase red blood cell count and hemoglobin levels, thus improving our blood’s ability to carry oxygen to our tissues.  Anemia, which is a condition where you have low levels of red blood cells, can be improved, and in some cases reversed, by good yoga practice.

Improves Immunity

The twists and stretches of a good yoga routine help to massage stale toxins out of our organs and flush these toxins through our immune system.  Yoga helps to wring out the lymphatic system, by pushing lymph fluid throughout our bodies, which aids detoxification.  A properly functioning lymphatic system is our first line of defense in combating infections, toxic chemicals and other non-natural substances that lead to free radicals and cancer-forming cells.

Lowers Blood Pressure

We’re all probably aware that high blood pressure can lead to strokes, heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases. What most of us don’t realize is that yoga offers a noninvasive (and non-pharmaceutical) alternative to reducing high blood pressure. Keeping our muscles pliant and flexible through regular yoga stretches may help keep the arteries pliable and thereby lower blood pressure naturally.

Mind/Body Health Benefits of Yoga

Breathing/Relaxation

Yoga involves paying close attention to our breathing. Many of us typically take shallow breaths and, since breathing comes naturally, we don’t give much thought to how we breathe. Yoga breathing exercises help us focus on that, compelling us to take long, deep breaths, which fosters relaxation and benefits the entire body. Proper breathing helps to clear the nasal passages and calm the central nervous system, which is both physically and mentally beneficial.

Stress Relief

Practicing yoga daily helps to lower stress in your mind and body. I’ve found that during periods of high stress in my life a 45-minute yoga routine is a very effective way to calm my nerves.  When I’m really wound up about something, I swear that yoga helps to physically lift the stress and tightness that I feel in my body.

Hot Flashes from Menopause

According to recent research, there is growing data around the benefits of yoga for women going through menopause.  A preliminary Wake Forest School of Medicine study shows that women who participated in weekly restorative yoga class reported a decrease in hot flashes. Yoga was also shown to boost their energy and mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and to lower physical and sexual discomfort.

On the whole, the health benefits of yoga are overwhelming.  There are very few exercise alternatives that have as many physical and emotional benefits.

I’m Hooked.  I want to “YOGA”.  How Do I Start?

I know.  I know.  You absolutely love what you’ve read in the last two articles, but you don’t have any idea how to start your yoga practice.  Maybe one or all of the following thoughts have entered your mind:

  • I don’t know where to buy a yoga mat!
  • I’ve never done yoga before.  I can’t just show up at some random yoga hangout.  I’ll embarrass myself.
  • Yoga?  I’m so inflexible.

Good news! Yoga is one of the easiest fitness activities to get started with.  Chances are, you can start “Yoga-ing” as soon as you finish reading this article.

  • You can find a nice, affordable yoga mat at a Target, a local sports store or on Amazon (check out this yoga mat).
  • If you have digital cable, satellite, or another pay-for-tv provider, chances are you have instructional yoga classes at your fingertips.  For example, as part of our monthly Time Warner cable package, we get free On Demand access to exercise and fitness channels, including numerous yoga classes.
  • As you would expect, there are tons of free instructional videos online.  Check out our last post on yoga for a good instructional video.
  • One of the coolest things about yoga is that everybody is on their own, personal improvement journey.  Even if you can barely stretch your body during your first session, after a bit of practice you’ll definitely feel the improvement!

Getting started is super easy.  Just give it a try.  And let us know in the comments how your first few practice sessions are going!!

Until next time,

Brent
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This Video Caught My Attention

After each post we identify an interesting “healthy living” video that we found particularly insightful. Consider this our version of a healthy living YouTube channel!

Fun Video about Yoga Benefits

This is a quick, cool video highlighting some of yoga’s benefits. It includes a few simple getting-started techniques.

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